French Chicken and Roast Potatoes – My experience with Gousto.co.uk

So, first day (hopefully) back to normal after staying down in Havant for work for three weeks! (Minus weekends, of course). And also, excitingly, parcel day!

IMAG0650I’ve been looking forward to this all week. A couple of weeks ago I received a money off voucher for a website called Gousto. It was one of the leaflets at the bottom of an Amazon box that I usually throw out without reading, but I noticed it was food related so it caught my attention. I thought £25 off was a decent amount, but it probably meant that I’d have to spent £50+ initially.

Anyway, one bored day at work the week before last, I decided to take a proper look at the website. Gousto is a service that allows you to select three meals, and they will then deliver the ingredients (in the exact amounts) to your door, along with instructions for the recipe. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that picking three meals “for two” (for four was the other option) only came to £34.99 – take the £25 off and I’d only be spending £9.99!

I would never normally pay £35 for three (or, six) meals. I can – or rather, have done so in the past – spent £35 on an entire week’s worth of shopping. As much as they try to prove how good value the ingredients are, the meals work out at £5.83 per portion if you pay full price. Yes, it’s a cheaper alternative to eating out every night, but it’s definitely not value for money if you’re going to cook regularly. However, compare it to the price of a takeaway you’re going to regret straight after eating, and it’s perfect!

However, I could definitely get behind spending £10 for 6 meals, so I decided to put my voucher to good use.

IMAG0651As you’re aware I’m currently trying to watch what I’m eating, so I did look at the calorie and protein content of the meals when making my decision, although that wasn’t the only factor I took into consideration. However it must be said, that these three are three of the lowest calorie content meals that were on offer this week , and they come in at 538 (beetroot risotto), 595 (chicken and potatoes), 618 (lentils and butternut squash). I take these numbers with a pinch of salt mind you, as when I put the recipe for the chicken into MyFitnessPal it came out at 800+ calories per meal. It remained similar to Gousto’s count until I added in the olive oil.

Anyway, all that aside, I was very excited to be receiving the parcel today. Ignoring the fact it meant I’d be working from home rather than the office (yay!), my calf muscles are in agony right now. I did this Pop Pilates video two evenings ago, without any weights and taking three or four breaks, and whilst yesterday was uncomfortable, I can hardly walk today. Definitely didn’t fancy nipping out to the shops before lunch, although I may still go this evening.

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I have to say I did love the experience of taking each new ingredient out of the box, seeing what I’d get. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the ingredient list when picking the recipes, and it genuinely felt like Christmas. Everything is portioned exactly as required, and over half of the ingredients are organic. It’s all from British farmers too, and I really admire the dedication to reducing food waste. There was minimal packaging, and I really liked the way the chicken and crème fraîche had been insulated. There were two ice packs that are definitely reusable (and in fact were used several hours later to try and ease the pain in my calves), and this:

IMAG0653No styrofoam chips here! This is pure sheep’s wool (and smells like it too). I thought this was ingenious – it makes complete sense, but I would never have considered using it. It’s biodegradable and reusable, but I must admit I’ve no idea what to do with it. Might ask my flatmate – she’s very craftsy/DIY-y and loves to knit. Maybe she can use it?

So lunch today: French Chicken and Crispy Potatoes.

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It was a very simple meal to make. The chicken was cooked by itself, seasoned and skin-side down in olive oil for about 10 mins (then 4 mins on the other side), whilst the potatoes were being prepared and put in the oven. Then it was placed to one side whilst the beans were cooked.

IMAG0656This was definitely my favourite part of the whole meal. Thinly sliced leeks and chopped garlic were cooked in the pan used to cook the chicken, so the oil had already been infused and there was a fair bit of chicken fat in there. I actually took several spoonfuls of fat/oil out of the pan before adding the leeks because I couldn’t stand the idea of using that much. Then to the leeks and garlic was added cannellini beans, chicken stock and fresh tarragon. Simmered for 5 minutes it became deliciously and creamy, and I could eat a bowlful of it by itself.

As for the finished dish as a whole:

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It was ok. Like I’ve now said several times, I really like the leek and beans combination. My main issues were with everything else. The chicken was just a bit plain. I know I was the one who seasoned it, but fried chicken with a bit of salt and pepper isn’t really my favourite thing. I like to slow roast it with lots of garlic, or cumin, or numerous other things. There is something to seasoning simply, but I just thought that it was a bit plain. Again with the roast potatoes. Literally the only thing they were cooked in was olive oil. I’ve grown up with dad adding chilli flakes, or fennel seeds, or even salt and pepper, but this recipe called for none of that (and I tried following it to a ‘t’). I’m sure for people who are used to ready-meals and takeaways it was great, but I just felt it lacked that extra something. Basically, there was nothing special about the chicken or roast potatoes.

My other main issue was the sheer amount of oil/fat in the dish, even though I removed quite a lot of it part way through! The chicken was fried in 1-2 tbsps E.V.O.O. and released a lot of fat itself, especially since I was provided with 320g chicken thighs, most of which were skin. On the two smallest thighs there were only scraps of meat.

So when I bit into the chicken later on, even though it had been resting/draining on a paper towel, you could practically squeeze the oil out of it. It didn’t help the plainness at all. The decision to remove several spoonfuls of fat was definitely a good decision I feel, because the beans and leeks were cooked in the chicken pan and it would have made the beans far too oily. The potatoes were also coated in 1-2 tbsps oil.

I’m reserving my judgement of the whole thing until I’ve tried the other two meals. The spice mix to go in the lentils already smells delicious, and I can’t imagine how beetroot risotto tastes. And whilst there was far too much oil in the chicken meal, I a) could have reduced the quantity myself as I’ve done before for other things, and b) it was still miles better than any takeaway I’ve ever had (bar healthy one I discovered recently). You know each and every thing that has gone into the meal, and it’s all healthy, delicious ingredients.

I may not use the service again, but I’m definitely enjoying it as a one-off so far!

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The Journey So Far

I realised that whilst I’ve done an ‘Introduction to the Blog’ post, I haven’t really given an introduction to me personally other than what’s in ‘About the Author’. So here is a fairly quick overview of who I am and my health and fitness journey so far.

My name is Anna, I’m 22 years old and I live in London, although I currently work in Havant (just outside of Portsmouth) as a Business Analyst – a trainee technology consultant of sorts. In almost exactly one month’s time this information will be out of date, as my birthday falls on December 11th and I finish this project on December 19th (fingers crossed for a London-based role next time!).

Currently, this is me:

(Well, this was me in August. I look pretty much the same except I now have longer hair)

I’m 5’7″ (171cm) and weigh roughly 160 lbs.

I’ve weighed roughly 160 lbs for the last nine months now, and I would like that to change. Whilst I care more about my fitness and strength levels than I do my weight, I’m definitely aware that I inherited my dad’s family’s propensity for weight gain along with my mother’s appetite. If I’m not careful, I gain very quickly.

The difference between how active I was as a child and how active I was as a teenager is quite impressive. Between the ages of 2 and 10/11 I did several forms of dance, floor gymnastics, and swam quite a lot. I also ran around a lot whilst playing as most children do, and was a fairly hyperactive child. Unfortunately, as I started to grow up, I fell into the trap of not wanting to go to dance and gymnastics anymore because I was missing the television that I wanted to watch. Mum tried to keep me there, but ultimately failed, and so I quit my main form of exercise (we didn’t have P.E. lessons in primary school).

Prior to the start of secondary school I’d had a number of problems with ingrown toenails. This was the result of my dad accidentally standing on my foot a few years previously, or, as he likes to tell it, the result of me placing my foot under his. Around the time I started secondary school, aged 11, I had an operation on both feet in order to prevent me from getting an ingrown nail every again. Whilst it worked, I was unable to do P.E. lessons for some time, or any other form of physical activity, and by the point I could start again I was unfit and I hated exercise.

This hatred of exercise lasted throughout the remainder of my teenage years, except for a short period of three or so months aged 16 when I joined a dance class again. Whilst I really enjoyed the class, I had a lack of self-confidence and a shyness throughout. This meant that when the class re-started after Christmas break, I couldn’t bring myself to phone and find out the right day/time, and so never went back. I had also long since discovered the internet and computer games by this point, and basically spent my non-school waking hours sat in front of a screen.

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Cleansing (and Comforting) Clear Chicken Soup

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It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I am extremely influenced by anything that I read or watch. Spend an afternoon watching interviews with actors? I could be an actor! Binge-watch a season or so of White Collar? I should get my artistic ability to that of a master art-forger, it’s definitely a plausible goal! And clearly my life goal really should be a successful career as a high-paid city lawyer (à la Suits). Ok, so that last one to be fair is potentially achievable, if I weren’t 100% certain of the fact that I’d hate it. Doesn’t stop me daydreaming though.

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Recommitting to Yoga

A couple of days ago DoYouYoga.com published an article on The Cycles of Yoga Practice. The author talked about three recurring stages of yoga practice – the falling in love, the consistency, and the falling out of love.

Recently, I think I’ve been falling out of love with yoga.

I started practicing yoga consistently(ish) almost two years ago in my third year of university. Prior to then I’d dabbled once every few months or so, but for my 21st birthday I received my first ever smart phone, and a whole new world of apps was opened to me. I went on a bit of a “apps that could help me improve my life” binge, and quickly installed an app called Daily Yoga. From there I quickly got into the habit of practicing almost-daily, even if only for 5-10 minutes (which was more often than not).

Despite starting off with only very short sessions, I loved yoga. I was extremely unfit and had virtually no upper body strength, so five minutes including a minute and a half of downward dog was pretty much all I was able to do without my arms giving up. When doing the single run-through of a sun salutation using the app, you do two downward facing dogs. The first is held for thirty seconds, the second for a minute. At first, just fifteen or so seconds into the second DD my arms would be shaking, and I’d collapse soon after.

However, with commitment to practice, I gradually increased the length of time it took for me to collapse, until I was able to hold the second pose for the full minute. And I was then able to do a third, upon moving to the longer sun salutation session. When I did do a longer practice, it could easily last anywhere between forty-five minutes to an hour. These were rarer, but they did happen. I just loved what I was doing and loved feeling myself improve.

But life moves on and circumstances change, and I occasionally found myself not having practised any yoga for several weeks. Boy, could I feel it. I don’t know whether I hadn’t realised how much I was aching on a daily basis prior to yoga, or whether the pain was a new thing, but my body was not happy with me putting a stop to the practice. I was usually fairly quick to get back into practice as soon as I could.

Eight months ago I started my first full-time job, and five months ago I started working in a city two hours away from where I live. Initially I stayed in a hotel during the week, but for the last couple of months I’ve been commuting. This upheaval and change in circumstances pretty much brought my practice to a standstill, and whilst I’ve been trying recently to get back into a routine, I’ve hit a couple of snags.

Because of how infrequently I’ve been practicing yoga over the last year, in some ways I’m back to square one. I don’t maintain the flexibility I used to, and I no longer have the stamina for certain routines and poses. Having not touched the yoga app in about a year, having preferred youtube videos recently , a few days ago I went back to the five minute sun salutation. Roughly fifteen seconds into the second downward facing dog, my arms gave out.

Frustrating isn’t the word. If it weren’t for the fact that I know I love yoga, and it makes me feel better and it is immensely good for me, I’d have been tempted to give up. I certainly wasn’t tempted back on the mat. I felt like I should have been better than this, that I should be on more advanced poses, I mean, I’d been doing it for nearly two years now and…

At some point, I managed to tell my ego to shut the hell up. Yoga isn’t about how advanced the poses you can do are, it’s not about looking flawless whilst practicing, it’s about showing up on the mat. And I don’t do that. It can’t be surprising that I’m practically back to square one when it took weeks of consistently getting on the mat every single day in order to move away from that and see some “results” – whatever that means. Whilst it’s great to notice yourself improve, I also need to keep in mind that  no matter what I’m doing on the mat, the very fact that I’m there makes me feel better mentally, and keeps me healthier physically.

I’d been falling out of love with yoga not because I’d been having any problems with yoga, but because I’d been having problems with myself. I need to stop caring about what I “should” be able to do, and rather than even focus on what I can do, I need to concentrate on what I am doing. With this in mind, I did a 25 minute session yesterday – another from the yoga app. I wobbled a lot. I fell over a few times. I had to keep bringing my mind back to the moment, rather than getting frustrated over myself. But I got through it, my mind settled and I felt miles better at the end of it than I had done in weeks.

The fact that I need to bring consistency into my practice is one of the reasons I decided to make yoga one of the things I regularly talk about here. Keeping you updated on my practice will help to keep me accountable, and hopefully you can take something from my practice –  successes and failures both – that will help or inspire you in yours.

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Pumpkin Power Bites

Unfortunately day one of my newly renovated diet (read as: first day back from my parents house, and therefore away from all the cakes, crisps and other snacks) is also the day before I go and spend four days in a hotel in the south of England for work. I usually commute back and forth every day (2 hour journey, but definitely worth it), but I’ve been told that the next two weeks might be hellishly busy so I’m going to suck it up and stay down there for a few days.

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